Chapter 9: Mother, Teacher, Family: The Nature and Role of the Church
In preparation for the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September 2015 and the visit by Pope Francis, a catechism on family life titled “Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive,” has been prepared. Each month CatholicPhilly.com presents a reflection on one of the 10 chapters of the catechism. Previous monthly reflections are online here.
From its opening paragraphs, this catechism has explained how we were created for communion with God and one another. The Church has institutional forms because this communion must be visible and tangible, and active in the world.
The Church’s earthen vessels are necessary for proclaiming a spiritual reality: the Church is the Bride of Christ, a “she,” not an “it.” In the words of St. John XXIII, the Church is our mother and teacher, our comforter and guide, our family of faith. All the baptized are the Church’s sons and daughters, giving Christians our most fundamental and authentic identity.
As members of the Church, we are members of the “one body” that is not defined by any human qualification, such as age, nationality, or intelligence, or by any human achievement, such as efficiency, organization, or moral virtue. Even when her people and leaders sin, we still need the Church’s wisdom, sacraments, support, and proclamation of the truth. Just as our own sinfulness never erases our creation in God’s image, when Catholics sin, that does not erase the Church’s holiness.
The Church’s essence depends on Jesus, a foundation which holds us accountable, but which is also deeper and more secure than any human achievement or failure. God never abandons us. Despite her many failures, the Church cannot shirk the responsibility to preach and live the Gospel. “Love is our mission,” and the Church is the family that teaches and embodies this love.
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